July 11, 2020

Devil’s Darning Needles

Clematis virginiana seed head

Clematis virginiana seed head | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Native to most  of North America east of the Dakotas, Clematis virginiana is a vigorous vine that can reach 20 feet in length. It is notable for its fragrant white flowers that bloom in abundance in late summer. Go Botany identifies Virginia virgin’s bower as the most common clematis in New England, and the specimen pictured was found at Baxter State Park. Hardy to Zone 3, it grows well in a number of varying habitats, including edges of wetlands, shores of rivers or lakes and in shrublands, thickets or swamps. After it flowers, this member of the buttercup family forms interesting seed heads, which prompts one of the common names: Old Man’s Beard. As for that unholy darning needle common name, one might think it is because of the tenacious twining ability of its twisting leaf stalks, which help it quickly climb – and even overwhelm – any supporting plant or structure.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

Earlier in 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken earlier this year, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.